Ben Sollee

Album Title: Learning to Bend
Release Date: June 10, 2008
Genre: Folk
Singer-songwriter and cellist Ben Sollee has been busy. Not only will he be releasing his solo debut record Learning to Bend shortly, but he also just put out a record with the Sparrow Quartet consisting of himself, banjo players Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck and violinist Casey Driessen. Sollee’s solo album moves away from the twangy tunes on the Sparrow Quartet album into a folksier, jazzy sound with definite country influences reminiscent of fellow jazz-folkie Amos Lee.

The title Learning to Bend also serves as the overarching theme of the album; talking about a need for change. Some of the appeal for change goes out to individuals like in the tune “It’s Not Impossible” where he muses that he’d love to express his emotions, but “boys don’t cry”. Or in the fun, upbeat tune “Bury Me With My Car” where he muses that since the Roman’s had their chariots, cowboys their horses and “China’s first emperor was buried with his army”, in America they should be able to take their Buick’s and Cadillac’s into the hereafter – even city folk like myself have to love the satirical square dance sounding song. Other tunes beg for bigger changes like the opening track “A Few Honest Words” that pleads “If you’re going to lead my country/if you’re going to say it’s free/ we’re going to need a little honesty”.

The mostly mellow tracks sported a few other highlights including “Panning for Gold” whose focus on the strings leaves sweet instrumental pauses to ponder the beautiful, melancholy message and an updated version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”.

Writer: Michelle Garcia

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